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Music of Lloyd Webber Snr to be performed in Bermuda

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If you haven't heard of British composer William Lloyd Webber, you're not alone.

Many people haven't and neither had the Bermuda Chamber Choir until it began rehearsals for a programme of his music to be presented this weekend.

In fact, director Ryan Ellis was also unfamiliar with Webber's compositions until he began researching new music for the choir's spring concert.

He was pleasantly surprised to find that the father of the celebrated Andrew Lloyd Webber, and his brother, the cellist Julian, had composed a wide variety of very beautiful works.

“It is one of those discoveries which I feel really good about, and the choir has particularly enjoyed getting to know his music, which is very romantic in style,” Mr Ellis said. “The joy is that we now get to share it with our audience.

“The elder Lloyd Webber wrote beautiful melodies with thick, rich harmony, and we have been fascinated to understand how Andrew Lloyd Webber must have been influenced growing up with his father.”

Born into a poor London family in 1914, William Lloyd Webber's own father was a keen organ buff who took his son to hear various organs in and around the British capital. As a result, young William developed an almost obsessional fascination with the instrument, and by the age of 14 was fulfilling engagements in churches and cathedrals throughout the UK.

Through scholarships, he then went on to study composition with the great British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music, and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists at age 19.

“William really started making a name for himself in the late 1930s, and began writing a lot in the 1940s and 1950s works for orchestra, as well as for choir and organ, which is what we are going to focus on, as well as other chamber music,” Mr Ellis said.

While Sunday's programme will focus primarily on selections from William Lloyd Webber's choral and organ pieces, it will also include excerpts from his oratorios, instrumental pieces for organ and violin, a sonatina for viola and piano, and two songs for tenor voice and piano.

The latter will be sung by visiting artist Patrick Waters, who last performed during the choir's Christmas concert at Dockyard.

Laura Appert Springham will play two works: 'Benedictus' for organ and violin and 'Sonatina' for viola and piano.

Following his recent, highly successful Bermuda Festival appearance with the Bermuda Festival Orchestra, Oliver Grant will be making a welcome return to the concert stage to perform a short set of works for solo piano by William Lloyd Webber entitled 'Spring Miniatures'.

“These will help to set the tone for the vernal equinox, so there is a little bit of a spring theme in there, and the pieces are very romantic truly Rachmaninov influenced,” Mr Ellis said.

Before a surprise ending, the programme's penultimate work will be the Bermuda première of Malcolm Archer's 'Anthem for Seafarers' only the second time it has been performed in the world, with the first being in Vancouver, Canada last December.

This work was especially commissioned by Michael Drayton, a friend of Bermuda's honorary German Consul, Jens Alers.

Mr Alers, who is also on the board of the National Museum of Bermuda and is an enthusiastic supporter of the Bermuda Chamber Choir and Orchestra, takes up the story.

“Michael was, until one and half years ago, chairman of the Baltic Exchange, and in that capacity recognised that there was no hymn specifically dedicated to seafarers, so on behalf of the exchange he commissioned Malcolm Archer, a former organist at St Paul's Cathedral in London, to write the 'Anthem for Seafarers',” he said.

“Bermuda has a lot of maritime history and connections with the sea, so it is entirely appropriate that its second première should take place here. I haven't heard it myself, so it will be a total surprise to me as well as the audience.”

Outlining the nature of the short piece, Mr Ellis explained: “It starts softly as the organ creates the deep swells of the sea, but you can feel a rumbling underneath, and the waters become very angry. Just when it seems as though a ship is going to sink the waters settle, and out comes the hymn, 'Eternal Father, Strong to Save'.”

The Bermuda Chamber Choir will be joined by visiting organist Jeff Kempskie.

“He will show off Wesley's magnificent organ, and its brilliant ability to support and accompany the voices while decorating the texture with a variety of colour,” Mr Ellis said.

The concert will take place at the Wesley Methodist Church on Church Street at 5pm on Sunday. Tickets (adults $15, students $10) are available at C-Travel, the Bermuda School of Music, and at the door.

William Lloyd Webber
Andrew Lloyd Webber, pictured with the cast of Phantom of the Opera
Julian Lloyd Webber

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Published March 16, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated March 15, 2011 at 5:17 pm)

Music of Lloyd Webber Snr to be performed in Bermuda

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